Darkitecture: Learning Architecture for the Twenty-First Century, edited by Iwona Blazwick and published by Two Little Boys.
Darkitecture is an anthology of texts and projects exploring how we learn about and build architecture for real communities in the twenty-first century. It draws on the ideas and methods of the late architect and Royal College of Art tutor Gerrard O'Carroll, a vibrant and unorthodox thinker of architecture. Along with his writings and statements are texts and projects by his contemporaries and alumni. Together they represent some 'what if?' scenarios with which to proceed on the journey towards becoming an architect; towards the conception of a design vocabulary that expresses everyday lives; and the creation of buildings and urbanities that embrace the irrational and celebrate the social. Darkitecture is a revolutionary handbook that will challenge students, designers, architects and citizens to review the way they look at, think about, learn and build architecture.
The figure of architect and senior tutor at the Royal College of Art Gerrard O'Carroll is at the center of the book. I couldn't remember where i had heard his name until i leafed through the book and i realized i had visited some of the exhibitions he had organized and blogged about the work of several of his architecture students.
A critic called O'Carroll the "King of Darkitecture" after having visited an exhibition of his in 2007. The neologism made for an attention-grabbing book title. However, I don't find the book nor the projects and ideas it presents dark at all. I found them thought-provoking, relevant to our times (which i admit are fairly dark) and lucid. Even if most of the essays and works are dealing with "speculative near future and alternative nows." There's plenty of humour in the book as well. And not necessarily of the dark kind. My favourite quote was by O'Carroll asking why the modulor man has no penis.
O'Carroll called for a more thoughtful brand of architecture, for an architecture that engages with society, with the 'fragility of human behaviour', for an architecture that doesn't enclose but create a framework for things to happen.
The content of the essays is eclectic. One moment you read about how radical architecture emerges with times of economic crisis, unrest and doubts. Next, you read about aspiring models knocking on the doors of photographer Juergen Teller. Or about the way technology interferes with the way we love, about the handing over of our streets and squares to private developers, the role of the anti-hero in architecture, the tension between our nostalgia for unspoilt 'natural' food and our interest for the consumption of fruit enhanced with drug-delivery systems. The people evoked in the book include J. G Ballard, radical architects Superstudio, Jacques Tati, Gaetano Pesce and Ennio Morricone.
The book is edited by Iwona Blazwick OBE and includes contributions from Iain Aitch (journalist), Paola Antonelli (MoMA), Iwona Blazwick (Whitechapel Gallery), Nigel Coates (architect), Emma Dexter (curator), Tom Greenall (RCA), Rosy Head (RCA), Jonathan Hill (Bartlett), Claire Jamieson (RCA), Anna Minton (writer), Rowan Moore (critic), Jake Moulson (RCA), Richard Noble (Goldsmiths College), Lucy Pengilley Gibb (RCA), Fiona Raby (RCA), Alex Smith (RCA), Noam Toran (RCA), Anthony Vidler (Cooper Union) and Gilda Williams (writer).
Pretty nice design by Luke Fenech and Morag Myerscough too!
Image on the homepage from Mon Oncle, the film by Jaques Tati, 1958.
Fallout Shelter. Designing for Civil Defense in the Cold War, by David Monteyne, assistant professor in the Faculty of Environmental Design at the University of Calgary.
Publisher University of Minnesota Press writes: In Fallout Shelter, David Monteyne traces the partnership that developed between architects and civil defense authorities during the 1950s and 1960s. Officials in the federal government tasked with protecting American citizens and communities in the event of a nuclear attack relied on architects and urban planners to demonstrate the importance and efficacy of both purpose-built and ad hoc fallout shelters. For architects who participated in this federal effort, their involvement in the national security apparatus granted them expert status in the Cold War. Neither the civil defense bureaucracy nor the architectural profession was monolithic, however, and Monteyne shows that architecture for civil defense was a contested and often inconsistent project, reflecting specific assumptions about race, gender, class, and power.
Despite official rhetoric, civil defense planning in the United States was, ultimately, a failure due to a lack of federal funding, contradictions and ambiguities in fallout shelter design, and growing resistance to its political and cultural implications. Yet the partnership between architecture and civil defense, Monteyne argues, helped guide professional design practice and influenced the perception and use of urban and suburban spaces. One result was a much-maligned bunker architecture, which was not so much a particular style as a philosophy of building and urbanism that shifted focus from nuclear annihilation to urban unrest.
While reading the book, i was reminded of an American TV series from the early 1960s: The Twilight Zone. They called it La Quatrième Dimension where i lived. The episodes were part of a French tv programme from the 1980s that mixed science, scifi and pop culture. The two presenters, the twins Igor and Grichka Bogdanoff, were the coolest guys on this planet. I got a shock about an hour ago when one of the first results of a google search produced this! But i'm digressing. Some of the most memorable episodes of the Twilight Zone featured nuclear shelters, see for example Time Enough at Last and The Shelter. Atomic shelters were very exotic, very American, very eccentric to me. They were also sinister. Because of their design and purpose of course but also because of the era they embody and because of the scenarios built around them by the tv writers.
The episodes of the Twilight Zone are works of fiction but they also echo some of the preoccupations and ethical dilemmas raised by many of the architects whose work is discussed in this book. Fallout Shelter. Designing for Civil Defense in the Cold War is first and foremost an architecture book but its content is also pertinent to readers who have a very limited interest in the discipline. The design and politics of fallout shelters spills onto other issues that characterized the early Cold War. From racial questions (the shelters were conceived for white American families living in suburbs and not so much for the people living in multi ethnic inner-cities or for 'marauding Indians') to the reluctance to spend tax money on social welfare. From urban dispersal to the exploration of new modes of urbanism (for example, Camp Century, 'the city under the ice'.)
However, some of the issues raised and solutions brought forward at the time still (unsurprisingly) exert an impact on the world we live in today: the militarization of public edifice and spaces (called in the book 'fortress urbanism'), the propaganda of fear, the top secret bunkers built by the government to protect members of the federal government and of the military reminded me of the 'Blank Spots on the Map', etc.
Here is the rough structure of the book: The first two chapters differentiate the approaches to civil defense taken in the 1950s an 1960s. While the 50s had little understanding of the impact of atomic weapon on the land and advised citizens to build their own shelters, the later decade admitted that little could be done to protect the population from the atomic blast itself and that only the fallout could be addressed which lead to a change of strategy that involved locating existing public buildings that could be used for communal protection. Chapter 3 examines more closely the planning process. Chapter 4 explores how architects approached (or brought a critical light on) the opportunities offered by civil defense work. Chapter 5 and 6 presents a series of architectural competitions, publications and programs launched to convince architects to plan for fallout shelters in new constructions. The last chapter studies in detail the building that inspired the book: the Boston City Hall.
Source image on the homepage: Atomic annihilation.
Vivays Publishing says: In this book, the author surveys the key concepts and ideas that have reverberated throughout the art world in the last decade through studying the artists who have created them. From blockbuster museum exhibitions to influential art fairs and art-stars, the ever-expanding contemporary art world has been increasingly integrated into popular culture. While highlighting established artists such as Gerhard Richter, the book also includes emerging and mid-career artists whose work ranges widely. Artists such as Jeremy Wood who plots his movement across the globe through GPS tracking, Tatsuo Miyajima who does digital light displays, Eduardo Kac who does transgenic bio-art or Santiago Sierra who paid workers to shift a heavy rock back and forth are among the international artists included in this book. Often controversial, these artists push the boundaries of what would traditionally be considered art.
Beyond Contemporary Art is the first book i've read that not only recognizes that contemporary art is constantly reinventing itself (a fact that most books on the subject acknowledge) but that also exemplifies clearly the relentless flux and stretching width of the definition for contemporary art. The book shows painting and photography for galleries, sculpture and installation for museums but also street art, game art, information aesthetics, computer-based art, etc. It's an eclectic book, a fact highlighted by the presentatin of the artists in alphabetical order. Anish Kapoor comes right before Eduardo Kac. Takashi Murakami directly follows M/M.
Beyond Contemporary Art is also a very subjective book. I can't see how it is possible to be entirely objective when it comes to contemporary art but it does make you wonder what your own choices would have been. I know that if i had to write a book that focuses so strongly on emerging art, i wouldn't have felt the need to add Damien Hirst, Antony Gormley and Anish Kapoor. Maybe i would have left Banksy aside too. I would have chosen more political works (the kind of work we define as 'activism' and 'hacktivism'), i would have looked beyond the USA and Europe. But that's just me being equally subjective. And that's also just a detail because the author does a far better job at showing what is contemporary art today than any contemporary art fair does. Which brings us to Frieze, the fair is opening tomorrow in London and it's going to be interesting to see how static or forward-looking Frieze is this year compared to the book (last year was decidedly on the stagnant side.)
Beyond Contemporary Art is a brilliant book. Only a couple of blogs would bombard you in such short succession with Aram Bartholl, Björk, Usman Haque, Burning Man, Ryoji Ikeda, INK Illustration.
However, i would advise the author to be better acquainted with geography. Ars Electronica doesn't take place in Vienna, Stroom isn't in Belgium.
A few examples of what you can find in the book. With or without comments:
Céleste Boursier-Mougenot transformed the Curve (at the Barbican in London) into a walk-though aviary for zebra finches. The birds went about their daily life, flew around and perched on or fed from the electric guitars and other instruments and objects that the artist had installed in the space. By doing so, they composed an unexpected, live soundscape.
Jenny Pickett & Sunshine Frère offered gallery visitors the opportunity to purchase art works. If they couldn't afford the object they coveted but they did not want anyone else to have it, they could pay to have it destroyed for a fraction of the price. The destroyed artworks was then presented in beautifully packaged remains and come complete with an authenticated DVD of the art(efact's) destruction.
Earth-Moon-Earth involved the transmission of Beethoven's Moonlight Sonata to the moon and back with the help of moon bouncers.
With Vatnajökull, Katie Paterson broadcast the sounds of a melting glacier live to a visitor on a mobile phone in an art gallery.
Over the course of Roman Ondák's exhibition, museum attendants had to mark the visitors' heights, first names, and date of the measurement on the gallery walls. Beginning as an empty white space, over time the gallery gradually accumulated the traces of thousands of people.
Gerhard Richter'sstained glass window in the Cologne Cathedral is a 113 square metres abstract collage of 11,500 pixel-like squares in 72 colors, randomly arranged by computer (with some symmetry), reminiscent of his 1974 painting "4096 colours". Cardinal Joachim Meisner did not attend the window's unveiling; he had preferred a figurative representation of 20th century Christian martyrs and said that Richter's window would fit better in a mosque or prayer house.
Inside a transformed container, a ventilation system sucks in air and dust particles, which are filtered onto a piece of fabric. The result is a constantly changing pointillist imprint of the pollution present in Liverpool's air.
The fabric is replaced every two week and the print is then displayed in the exhibition space.
Data Cloud asks where we are in relation to where technology thinks we are. A GPS receiver was placed on 2 benches to record their position every ten seconds for one minute. The successive locations of the benches were mapped on a 3d chart of where the GPS infrastructure said they were. 12 new identical park benches were then assembled at 1:1 scale according to where the GPS positioned them, over, underneath, and nearby the two original benches.
Quick look inside the book.
Image on the homepage: Rona Yefman, Pippi Longstocking, The Strongest Girl in the World, 2006.
Euphoria & Dystopia: The Banff New Media Institute Dialogues, edited by Sarah Cook and Sara Diamond. Foreword by Kellogg Booth and Sidney Fels. Essays by Sandra Buckley, Steve Dietz, Jean Gagnon, N. Katherine Hayles, Eric Kluitenberg, Jeff Leiper, Allucquere Rosanne Stone. Afterword by Susan Kennard.
Publishers The Banff Center Press and Riverside Architectural Press write: Euphoria and Dystopia: The Banff New Media Institute Dialogues is a compendium of some of the most important thinking about art and technology to have taken place in the last few decades at the international level. Based on the research of the Banff New Media Institute (BNMI) from 1995 to 2005, the book celebrates the belief that the creative sector, artists and cultural industries, in collaboration with scientists, social scientists and humanists, have a critical role to play in developing technologies that work for human betterment and allow for a more participatory culture. The book is organized by key themes that have underscored the dialogues of the BNMI and within each are carefully edited transcriptions drawn from thousands of hours of audio material documenting BNMI events such as the annual Interactive Screen and the numerous summits and workshops. Each chapter is introduced by an essay from the book editors that discusses the roles of research and artistic co-production at Banff from 1990 to 2005 and a commissioned essay from a leading new media theorist. Includes the catalogue for 'The Art Formerly Known As New Media' exhibition, Walter Phillips Gallery, 2005.
I'll start with a confession: i haven't read the whole book. My only excuse is that it counts 1100 pages, with small fonts and only very few photos. I've had it by the sofa for months. So i read an essay here and there. One by Alexei Shulgin about netart (1998), Eric Kluitenberg's Notes on the Nature of Collaboration and Networks (2005), excerpts from Luis-Philippe Demers and Bill Vorn's participation to the summit Flesh Eating Technologies (1997), etc. Sometimes i want to read a text by an artist or theorist i like. Sometimes, i pick up an essay because of the issue it explores (Artificial Stupidity, method an Apparatus for Finding Love, Living Architectures.) So far it's been a fascinating journey. Euphoria & Dystopia is packed with insightful transcripts of talks, Q&A, ideas, debates, commissioned essays, excerpts by the media artists, curators, media theorists and computer scientists that you'd expect to appear in such publication. But because Banff is a place where people with widely different background and perspectives can meet, the book also contains texts by pharmacologists, nanotechnology researchers, ethnographers, spokespeople from the industry, sports designers, disability ethicists, cognitive scientists, leaders in Aboriginal storytelling, etc. Even a professional snowboarder.
Of course some essays and ideas have aged badly. But i was surprised to realize that most of the texts in the book are still acutely relevant 10 or 15 years on. It's quite disconcerting to realize that a number of discussions haven't made much progress over the years. The intro to the catalogue of the 2005 exhibition The Art Formerly Known As New Media, for example, hasn't lost an ounce of its strength. But even the essays and concepts that seem a bit passé nowadays have a value that goes beyond the archives: they give a context to today's discussions and debates, reminding us of what we used to think, forecast, fear. We all know how much the art & tech world is in dire need of more context.
I've never been to Banff and i know very little about it so i found it difficult to be excited by its history, functioning and sponsorship stories. But, hey, that's only a small part of this fantastic 1100 pages resource.
Check out also BNMI Archives - Banff New Media Institute.
Image on the homepage: Garnet Hertz, Experiments in Galvanism.
Black Dog Publishing writes: Material Matters: New Materials in Design discusses the vast range of materials that are available to us today, and highlights the advances predicted to prove seminal in the future. The six chapters are divided by chemical composition--Metals, Glasses, Ceramics, Polymers, Composites and material Futures--and with every material featured, the book stresses the relevance of physical material properties.
Each material featured is presented with relevant manufacturer information, material properties and current and potential applications and includes the websites of manufacturers and research institutes, making this a handy reference book for the designer. Material examples include the newly developed metallic 'microlattice', now the lightest solid known on earth; Dow Corning's 'Deflexion', a fabric capable of instantly hardening and Graphene, a material which, at 200 times the strength of structural steel despite being only one atom thick, has the potential to revolutionise the field of electronics.
Philip Howes, Materials Scientist and Zoe Laughlin, Creative Director of The Institute of Making, provide explanations of the basic chemical structure of materials--what makes a glass a glass and why not all polymers are plastics. Their discussion of the potentialities of new materials embraces disciplines as disparate as aerospace engineering and medical research, in addition to offering explanations to everyday material conundrums.
Microscopic glass flakes, Blood Lab-On-A-Stick, piezoelectric ceramics, Catalytic Clothing (clothes that purify the air around), noise-absorbing ceramic, titanium foam, antimicrobial copper, instantly-hardening fabric, light-reflecting concrete, self-healing concrete, soft magnets, self-cleaning glass, etc. And i had no idea that bullet-proof vests contained ceramic.
There is nothing arid nor soporific about new materials.
The authors of the book handpicked some of the most surprising new materials. Their look sometimes belies their nature, their names often verge on the oxymoron and their applications have only just started to be explored. Most materials are allocated one page in the book but some of them are illustrated further with a spotlight on a 'case study' that describes designers, architects and engineers' most innovative uses of materials: from largest optical/near infrared telescope to shape-changing architecture.
The text is as techy as necessary to explain clearly the physical properties and latest applications of each innovation but you don't require a degree in engineering to follow along.
Material Matters: New Materials in Design doesn't pretend to be the bible of all materials, the ultimate encyclopedia but it does fulfill competently its ambition to be a source of inspiration for designers and artists.
Soft Circuits or "epidermal electronic system" (EES) is an ultrathin, electronic circuit applied on the skin. It can stretch, flex, and twist and take input from the movements of your body.
Jólan van der Wiel lets magnetic fields and the force of gravity shape its stools. A mix of iron and plastic is layered between strong magnets that pull the material into unique designs.
Doris Kim Sung's Bloom installation demonstrates the properties of thermobimetal, a thermally responsive metal surface, which reacts to both the change in temperature and direct solar radiation. When the temperature of the metal is cool, the surface appears as a solid object, but once the afternoon heat penetrates the metal, the panels of custom woven bimetal will adjust and fan out to allow airflow and increase shade potential.
Stardust are made from dust that pre-existed the Sun. The interstellar samples were collected by astronauts in 1999. Scientists stored the stardust in Aerogel because its extremely light structure and thermally-insulating properties ensure that the particles are not damaged after being embedded inside the spongy interior.
Bare is a temporary conductive ink that can be sprayed or brushed directly onto the skin to create custom electronic circuitry. This innovative material allows users to interact with electronics through gesture, movement and touch.
Mushroom Packaging as a 100% biodegradable alternative to polystyrene (Styrofoam) packaging.
Ferrofluid, or magnetic liquid, is composed of ferrous nanoparticles suspended in a liquid.
Matthew Szösz blows air between pieces of fused discarded window glass.
A few months ago, i interviewed Léopold Lambert about Weaponized Architecture, an architectural project and research that explores the power of architecture as a political weapon. The concept is illustrated by historical precedents, interviews and essays but it is also exemplified by a very precise situation: the impact of the Isreali occupation on the Palestinian built environment, in particular in the West Bank.
At the time of our conversation, Léopold was about to turn his research into a book. The publication is finally out (both in paperback and as an expanded mobile book) and its title is Weaponized Architecture: The Impossibility of Innocence.
It's a lovely book and one that constantly surprises the reader by the depth of the research, the thought-provoking facts and ideas brought to light, by the photos, the maps and by the graphic novel that closes the book.
I'm not going to review it. Instead, i'll take the fact that it recently landed inside my -always grateful- letterbox as an excuse to talk to Ethel Baraona Pohl and César Reyes Nájera who are both architects, bloggers and heads of dpr-Barcelona, the publishing house for Weaponized Architecture.
dpr-barcelona specializes in architecture and design books. Each of their publication is the result of a creative exchange between publisher, author or designer and the collaboration of academic experts that make most complete the overview about each project. Showing a clear innovative way to bring the contents to the public, our projects transcend the boundaries between time and space from conventional publications, approaching to those which are probably the titles of architecture in the future.
What i most admire in dpr-barcelona is that the publishing house is never afraid to question architecture, expand debates nor take risks with the way their books are presented and enjoyed.
I'm copy pasting below some extracts from my online conversation with Ethel and César, it took place just before the book was out, hence the use of the future tense:
What i most admire about dpr-Barcelona is that you don't seem to avoid politically challenging subjects. For example, when you chose to publish Situation Room, Weaponized Architecture, Un Atlas de Cartografías Radicales (the Spanish edition of An Atlas of Radical Cartography.) How do you select the books you are publishing and in some cases even translating? Do you pick up just what interest you as architects at a particular moment or do look for 'gaps' in the market?
We prefer to refer to them as gaps in the thinking. As architects we have been mostly educated through images more than ideas. Our task attempts to revert this situation by the contents we share and by the way we spread them. Coincidentally most of key issues we're facing now as civilization deals with political and economical challenging subjects. Under this scenario architects, liberated from their aesthetics constrains, could genuinely learn and collaborate with socially useful projects and ideas. We build our editorial task in that direction.
Why did you chose to publish Léopold Lambert's thesis for example? How did you come across his research?
Our relation started as most of the connections done in the "network": We noticed and follow Leopold's work since he was editing the blog Boiteaoutils. We found quite interesting mostly all of the issues he deals at the blog and finally we got in touch in 2009 to publish his project Kili No Nara in our blog. From there our connection was going beyond the blogroll, so when we published Lost in the Line, we realized that it was part of a bigger project: Weaponized Architecture.
While exploring the research done by Léopold, we realized that it was a job worth spreading to a different level. Placing its research and proposal in the West Bank, Lambert expands politically the field of architecture narratives, integrating design as a weapon within the scene of the Palestinian struggle. Here we see an act of architectural disobedience, a way to resist an establishment using architecture as a weapon with all its political implications.
How did you turn a thesis into a book? Does this involve a lot of editing, reformulating, reformating? Or did you manage to stick as closely as possible to the original text?
Even its origin is a thesis, when you go into the research and the structure proposed by Léopold, then you realize that naming it "a thesis" is just a formalism. Lambert shows in this work a clear intention of going further and works on the subject as an author committed to the subject studied. That is a sort of implication that goes beyond the limits of Academia.
So, our intervention as publishers has been minimum given that both the contents and the complete layout has been done by the author. We have done minor format adaptation for printing purposes and our main task was focused in supplementing with a publishing strategy aimed to expand the message as wider as possible by means of mobile-book version and the addition of Augmented Reality experience to some contents of the printed version facilitating multi-platform interaction to make more powerful [if possible] Léopold's commitment.
The book will have a free expanded-mobile version, which means that almost all the contents, but adapted to the logic of mobile devices (enhancing immediacy, brevity, and simplicity) will be published for free under a CC license expanding the content of the physical book. The interaction with Augmented Reality will be part of this mobile-book.
The book includes interviews with blogger Bryan Finoki and with Palestinian lawyer, novelist and political activist Raja Shehadeh and will be published both in paperback and as an expanded mobile book, with Augmented Reality [AR] interaction, so the content itself will be expanded through mobile devices.
Related entries: Book review: Atlas of the Conflict. Israel-Palestine, Open City: Designing Coexistence - Part 2, Refuge, Decolonizing Architecture - Scenarios for the transformation of Israeli settlements and Welcome to Hebron.